1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die
During the '60s, England was wrapped up in one of the lamest clique conflicts of all time: the Mods versus the Rockers. I won't bother explaining the attitudes or dress codes of either side, but it should be known that The Who came to be the most recognizable band representing the Mods. This statement is one of the most overrated facts in history because the band did not stick to its Mod tendencies for very long. If you want an album where Modness is evident however, "My Generation" is it.
The term "Mod" is drawn from "modern," an adjective the social movement longed to live out. This included listening to music considered modern at the time: Modern jazz, soul and R&B. This fact is necessary to understand The Who's early years. The band had formed with the intention of playing nothing but R&B tunes, but luckily for us took to rock 'n' roll. The predilection for the aforementioned genres is still prevalent on "My Generation" however.
As with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones before them, The Who started out playing a healthy number of covers. Two of the tracks on "Generation" are James Brown covers ("I Don't Mind" and "Please Please Please") and another is from Bo Diddley ("I'm A Man," not to be confused with the band's later hit "I'm a Boy"). Even original tracks like "Out in The Street" evoke a sense of soul, as vocalist Roger Daltrey's high-range emulates the vocals of soul stars like Brown. Daltrey's tendency to shrieks would stick with him for the rest of his career.
Another indicator of Who works to come is the band's cynical, backhanded humor on "It's Not True." The song, written by guitarist Peter Townshend, is a list of denials for ridiculous rumors. The same style of humor would show up again in tracks like "I'm A Boy" and "Pictures of Lily." The mountain of sexual innuendo in "I'm a Man" also previews the lyrical references of "Squeeze Box." "Man," unfortunately would be cut from the American version because of said innuendo.
The biggest contribution to rock music on "My Generation" is the title song. "The Kids Are Alright" is a catchy single, but strays from The Who's signature attitude, whereas "My Generation" introduced the world to the rebellious band we know now. VH1 always introduces its history of metal series with The Who, which is a load. The Who were not vaguely metal, but "My Generation" displays the band's profound influence on punk. The youth in revolt message, the hints at obscenity (one of rock's most renowned lines: "Why don't you just f-f-f-fade away") plus an underrated series of bass flourishes from John Entwistle, make this an essential rock 'n' roll track.
The Who would evolve, producing tracks and albums much more epic and complex than the simpletons present here. But the guitar-smashing, nose thumbing Who we know now was born on this record.
INTERESTING FACT: Townshend said that the song "My Generation" was inspired an incident when the Queen was passing through his neighborhood and did not like the sight of a Packard Hearse used as a civilian vehicle, and therefore had it towed away. Pete Townshend automatically earns awesome-status for driving a hearse.